Warmer weather, warmer Rams work past Highlanders
SHEPHERDSTOWN – Launch angle had nothing to do with it. Neither did “exit velocity” from the hitter’s bats.
In the 73 degree weather, a large crowd at aged Fairfax Field watched comfortably, as home runs and assorted other long balls were featured in Shepherd’s doubleheader sweep of conference rival University of Virginia at Wise, by scores of 9-3 and 6-4.
The second sweep of a conference doubleheader on consecutive afternoons left the Rams with a 10-2 Mountain East Conference record, five straight wins and a 19-9 overall record.
In completing their schedule against the more robust South Division, Shepherd moved to a 4.5 game lead over Fairmont State, a North Division rival. The Fighting Falcons completed last weekend with a 5-6 conference record after losing a doubleheader to Concord on Saturday.
Wise found itself trailing, 6-3, after just two innings of the opener when the Rams erupted for six runs in their first turn. Syeed Mahdi homered in his third straight game, hitting a soaring three-run shot to deepest centerfield. The Highland Cavaliers already had a pair of home runs off Shepherd pitcher Steve Bowley, but then could never damage him again as he strangled them with five shutout innings to complete his fifth win of the year.
Justin Smith finished the Shepherd long ball show with a two-run homer as the Rams moved in front, 9-3, with only one inning left.
Bowley retired the Cavaliers in the seventh, as the game ended with centerfielder Brenton Doyle making a diving catch about two inches above the damp ground.
Shepherd collected 12 hits, including six in the first inning.
As it had done the day before in dispatching Concord, the Rams fell behind 3-0 in the nightcap as starting pitcher Eric O’Brien proved no mystery to the Wise bats. When he was replaced by Adam Miller with only one out in the second, O’Brien had yielded seven hits and all three runs. Miller worked out of the inning without allowing any more runs and stranding two runners in scoring position.
Shepherd began its comeback with Doyle’s solo homer and Daniel Keer’s RBI hit, and trailed just, 3-2, after three innings.
After Wise counted its only run off Miller in what was his 4.2 innings of accomplishment, it led 4-2 going to the last of the fifth.
Mahdi began the fifth by drawing a walk. He rode home on Keer’s RBI double. Nick Atkinson – in and out of the lineup with a batting average barely above the .200 mark – landed his most important hit of the season when he drilled a two-run home run over the Shepherd bullpen behind the snug left field barrier.
Shepherd led, 5-4.
Doyle drove in Eric Sloper, who had doubled to snap a hitless afternoon string. It was 6-4 . . . and only Ryan Marketell’s save-earning last inning of pitching was left.
The Rams won’t be back at home again until April 19 when they are slated to see West Liberty in a conference doubleheader.
Mahdi now has nine homers and Smith eight for the Rams, who have won 18 of their 21 games since returning North from beginning the year in North Carolina and South Carolina.